The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, and her delegation joined her colleague Justice ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Aruba to engage in intense discussions and decision- making regarding various agency matters related to the detention system, immigration and border protection and the progress on legislations, projects and structural improvements that will improve the enforcement for safety, security and the overall well-being of society. These are just a few of the matters handled during the two-day deliberations on technical and ministerial level.
The Chief Prosecutor, Mrs. Hieke Buist, and Chief of Police, Mr. Carl John, of Sint Maarten were part of the JVO delegation of Sint Maarten. Chief John also has an important role in the Caribbean part of our kingdom as the chairman of the College of the Chiefs of Police.
In representation of the Chiefs of Police of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Chief John delivered a presentation that covered various collaborative efforts underway by each territory to tackle crimes of various calibers.
Minister Richardson appreciates the efforts underway with the cooperation initiatives that address undermining activities and cross-border crime. In particular, with attention zooming in on subversive crimes such as combating the import and sale of counterfeit products.
Regarding the subject matter of combatting counterfeit products in Sint Maarten, which is one of the Minister Richardson’s top priorities of 2023, it is relevant to mention that it is becoming apparent to retailers and consumers that the existing anti-counterfeiting laws are now being heavily enforced by the Customs Department of Sint Maarten.
In December of 2022, the Customs Department launched an awareness campaign to further inform the public that the efforts to eradicate counterfeit products from within the community of Sint Maarten will be intensified.
The import and sale of fake and non-authentic products are a danger to the health and wellness of consumers and by extension is universally known to be heavily entwined with human trafficking, smuggling and child labor rings.
These are all serious crimes affecting nations around the globe and must be denormalized with consistent effort.
Most recently, the Prosecutor’s office gained the support of the courts to not release fake cigarettes that were imported to Sint Maarten. This case is ongoing, but the Government of Sint Maarten is pleased that the courts recognizes the danger of such products and has taken a stance thus far to not allow the release of these fake products.
Another important point Minister Richardson spoke very intensely on and called for her colleague Minister of the Netherlands to assist with is the immense cutting of the budgets of the Ministries of Justice of Curacao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. Though the efforts are to achieve a balanced budget, it’s coming at a dangerous sacrifice that can ultimately result in cause and affect scenarios and this gives all the Ministers of the Dutch Caribbean great concerns about operations, needed developments, and required growth.
Intertwined with the cuts made on the budgets, the Ministers of Curacao, Aruba and Sint Maarten jointly addressed their severe concern about the many obligations of the countries coming from JVO initiatives and the country packages to work on projects to strengthen the combating and prevention of crime within the Kingdom.
The CAS islands have limited human, financial and material resources to work in a successful manner on the initiatives simultaneously. Therefore, the countries agreed during the JVO meeting that a joint prioritization of initiatives including the impact on the aforementioned local resources of these priorities will be carried out by the countries within short.
In June of this year, the second and final JVO meeting of the year will be hosted by Minister Richardson in Sint Maarten. Minister Richardson sees the need to open the JVO discussions to representatives of all agencies of the justice chain. This is to ensure that the impact of decisions made during the JVO ministerial meeting, and the possible concerns of the agencies are completely taken in consideration by the decision makers of the four countries and with that stimulate realistic and successful implementation of decisions on an operational level.